For All You Are – the honour of singing at Hill 70 Gala

 

 

 

 

 

By Jeanne Pengelly

 

Balancing an already-busy season with many requests to sing at special events is always a challenge for the members of the Peterborough Pop Ensemble but singing for the fundraising gala to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hill 70 at the Peterborough Armoury on April 7th was an invitation to which we wanted to say “yes!”  

For one hour late on a Friday evening – after all the speeches, toasts and words of honour were complete –  the Peterborough Pop Ensemble was requested, committed, and present at this important community event.  And it’s this last condition that is the key.  The second the Ensemble walked into the room, there was a sense of dignity and importance, and it was something that energized each member individually, and the group as a whole. We were present.

From the first refrains of Cheek to Cheek, through the almost-rollicking rendition of Bless ‘Em All, to the gentle and fun You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, the music was clearly a welcome addition to the evening. The faces of those present told that story. They reflected, at first, cursory entertainment – a sense that “Hmm. This is a nice conclusion to the evening.” The speeches had gone a little long, and some were ready to go home. One person in attendance was 102 years old, and was most certainly feeling fatigued. Yet by the third or fourth song, once the audience realized they were the focus of the evening – not the Ensemble – the toes began tapping, the shoulders swaying, some even danced near the back of the room. 

Singing in the Armoury is a challenge of sorts. It’s not easy to warm up that very large, very concrete room. But looking out at the regalia, the medals, the red dress uniforms, the beautiful attire and decoration of the room, the music seemed to carry it all together into one big tapestry of honour.

The highlight of the Ensemble’s performance, as it often is, was Barbara Monahan’s original piece in which she solos, We Honour You. It is difficult for the Ensemble to keep their eyes dry during this performance, but it was particularly poignant to see so many of the Gala attendees singing along. Barb wrote this song for The Year of the Veteran in 2005. It’s been performed by the Ensemble numerous times, and seeing lips moving to the words meant that, indeed, you love it as much as we do. Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, sitting just to the Ensemble’s right, maintained a distinguished and formal, somewhat magisterial presence throughout the 20-minute show. But during We Honour You, she smiled, her eyes conveying the sheer wonder as she too was melted by the sentiment and performance. At the end, as she left, she paused as she was being escorted out to say “Thank you.” 

No, thank you! We are so glad we were present.   If only every Friday night were so meaningful!

 

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